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Wayne Nelson / Forum Communications Co., Published October 30 2012

UND's football schedule has been among nation's toughest

GRAND FORKS – Polls, power ratings, strength-of-schedules and the like, which add a little spice to college football, don’t produce wins or mean much when it comes to the bottom line. But they do serve as some consolation to a team like the University of North Dakota.

UND’s 2012 schedule, as it turns out, is rated as the second-toughest in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, according to the Big Sky Conference.

You’ll get no argument from UND, which has played its most demanding schedule in the program’s history during the last five weeks.

In order, UND has played No. 16 Cal Poly, No. 8 Eastern Washington, No. 12 Northern Arizona, unranked Montana, and No. 3 Montana State.

Six weeks ago, UND beat Sacramento State – a team that has surged enough in recent weeks to put itself in the postseason picture.

On paper, it looks like UND has run the gauntlet of tough teams. But next up for North Dakota is Southern Utah, a team that beat Eastern Washington last week. The loss knocked Eastern Washington from its No. 1 national ranking.

UND is 2-4 in the Big Sky and 4-5 overall. With two games remaining, UND has one goal – a winning season.

“We’re going to put everything we have into this game,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “If you’re nicked up, sore and playing on fumes, give me everything you’ve got because we’re going to you some days off next week to get healed up.”

UND is off next week and closes its season Nov. 17 at Northern Colorado.

Injuries still are a problem for UND.

Mussman said linebackers Myles Jablonski and Damon Andrews more than likely are doubtful for Southern Utah. Offensive lineman Darren Deneui is done for the season with a foot sprain. “That’s the same thing Garrison Goodman (UND’s leading tackler) has been dealing with,” Mussman said.

UND beat Southern Utah in Cedar City last season, the first road win for UND over a ranked FCS opponent.

But Southern Utah has defeated UND twice in Grand Forks.

Both are first-year members of the Big Sky but the teams do have some history as UND is out to square the all-time series at 3-3 on Saturday.

“You have to suck it up, pull yourself together, get some glue, tape or whatever you need to go out there and give it your all,” said UND running back Mitch Sutton.

Nelson writes for the Grand Forks Herald